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Ministry closes gold factory, rebukes authorities granting permits

January 11 - 2018 UM BARU
The area of Um Baru, between Karnoi and Kutum, in North Darfur (Google Imagery 2018)
The area of Um Baru, between Karnoi and Kutum, in North Darfur (Google Imagery 2018)

The Minister of Minerals has ordered the shutdown of a gold extraction factory that operated without a license and is negatively affecting residents and the environment in Um Baru, North Darfur.

On Wednesday, minister Hashim Ali Salim suspended the operations of the gold extraction factory. Police was deployed today to stop the factory from continuing its operations without a permit.

Salim told Sudanese media that the gold production of the owner of the factory, Musa El Dei, who had obtained a permit from one of the state commissioners, is not officially recognised.

Member of Parliament Minawi Digeish, representing Um Baru, said in an interview with Radio Dabanga yesterday that “a number of livestock and birds” have died of the toxic chemical cyanide which he suspects is in the waste of the factory.

“The factory is located in the middle of sixteen villages and pastures, and is only three kilometres away from the only water reservoir in Karnio which is used by residents to fetch drinking water.”

Digeish said that villagers had filed several complaints to North Darfur authorities to stop the factory’s operations, but found no response.

“120 barrels of water the factory pulls out of the reservoir each day, creating a shortage of water in the area,” the MP added.

Toxic

The factory uses cyanidation, a technique for extracting gold from low-grade ore. It is the most commonly used process for gold extraction. The process is controversial because of the highly toxic nature of cyanide.

Protests against gold cyanidation plants in several parts of the country increased in 2017. In March, police were deployedto protect the about 100 mining areas in South Kordofan after angry people torched parts of a gold extraction facility in Talodi. In October, a curfew was imposed in Kologi, to quell protests against the state government’s invitation to gold mining companies to come and work in the area.

In northern SudanNorth Kordofan, and North Darfur people took to the streets as well in fear for their health.

Mining certificates

In May 2017 there were 361 registered mining companies in Sudan, according to the Minerals Minister.

Yesterday, minister Salim accused the state governors, ministers and commissioners of violating the laws by granting certificates for mining without any reference to his ministry.

Salim, in his address to the national parliament, requested from North Darfur Governor Abdelwahed Yousef to conduct an investigation into the permit grant to mine in Um Baru and use cyanide, without the consent of the Ministry of Minerals.

“Together with the Ministry of Health we have set out requirements for the use of cyanide by companies that extract or mine for gold. Therefore this parliament should resolve the intersections between the ministries and states, through new legislation regarding the granting of permits.”

Gold market regulation

Last month the director of the Sudanese company for mineral resources in North Darfur announced the regulation and reorganisation of the gold markets in El Sareif Beni Hussein and El Malha localities. The reorganisation includes measures to improve the health situation for the workers, the restructuring and legalisation of the Jebel Amer market, and “the prevention of monopolising the land in the area for personal interests”.


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